MANILA (Updated) -- Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Ronald Dela Rosa confirmed Monday that Superintendent Maria Christina Nobleza, the police official who was caught in Bohol last Saturday, is in a relationship with the suspected bomb maker and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) member who was nabbed along with her.
Dela Rosa said that they found out during interrogation that Nobleza is the girlfriend of bomb maker Reenor Lou Dungon, alias Kudre, who is a relative of late Abu Sayyaf leader and founder Abdurajik Abubakar Janjalani and a brother-in-law of slain Abu Sayyaf leader Abu Solaiman.
Dungon was arrested in Marawi City in May 2013, but was released from prison after he presented a fake birth certificate to authorities.
Nobleza, on the other hand, is the current deputy regional director of the crime laboratory of the Davao Regional Police Office. She was a former member of the now defunct PNP-Anti Illegal Drugs Group.
"Lumabas sa initial investigation, she is a balik-Islam and she is romantically involved or romantically linked with the driver (of the vehicle) Dungon. Mag-uyab sila, mag-boyfriend/girlfriend," Dela Rosa said.
"Kung ano ang ginagawa niya hindi na sakop ng PNP, yung pakikipagrelasyon niya sa Abu Sayyaf, yung kanyang pag-balik-Islam. Ito may overt acts na ginawa kaya siya nahuli. Nahuli siya at kakasuhan natin siya dahil sa kriminal na kaso at administratively, siguradong tatanggalin natin siya sa serbisyo. She is sleeping with the enemy," Dela Rosa added.
On April 22, Dungon, who was driving the sports utility vehicle carrying Nobleza and several others, refused to stop at a checkpoint in Barangay Bacani, Clarin, prompting the policemen to chase them.
Also on board the vehicle were an elderly woman, reportedly the mother-in-law of the slain bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, Janjalani Khadafi, Abu Sulayman, and Akhmad Santos, all playing key positions in the Abu Sayyaf group, and a teenager who is allegedly Santos' child.
Intelligence operatives allegedly saw Nobleza throw a cellphone on the ground. It was traced and authorities found out that the police official was contacting members of the remaining Abu Sayaff members in Bohol.
Police said Nobleza was exchanging SMS with a member of the Abu Sayyaf group who was asking for rescue.
Dela Rosa, meanwhile, said Nobleza's arrest does not indicate that the PNP has been infiltrated by the bandit group.
"Hindi natin masabi na member siya ng Abu Sayyaf. Pwede siyang nagamit through her personal connections na naging boyfriend nga niya 'yung Abu Sayyaf na si Dungon. Do you think 'yung mga ibang mga pulis natin dito or sundalo walang relative na nasa kabila? Meron," he said.
"Personal choice na nila iyon kung maglipat na sila ng loyalty doon sa kabila then bahala sila. They have to consequences of their actions kaya nga ito ngayon tatanggalin sa serbisyo at kakasuhan natin," he added.
Dela Rosa believed that Nobleza went "crazy in-love" with Dungon and allowed herself to be used for the group's criminal activities.
In separate press conference, Dela Rosa said Nobleza and Dungon believed to have met in 2013 when the latter was detained in Camp Crame.
"Naaresto siya (Dungon) noong 2013 at dinala dito tapos si Nobleza ang nag-interview sa kanya," he said.
Dungon was then a suspect in the Macandrea Hotel in Cagayan de Oro City in 2012 that resulted in the death of two individuals. The case against Dungon was dismissed by the prosecutor due to a technicality.
Dela Rosa said that based on an investigation conducted by the Highway Patrol Group, Nobleza was supposed to be in Camp Crame for human resource training but she skipped the training and instead motored to Leyte on board her sports utility vehicle and proceeded to Bohol.
The PNP chief said they have yet to identify where and when Nobleza and Dungon met for the rescue attempt of wounded companions.
Dela Rosa said that among the cases they will file against Nobleza are illegal possession of firearms, harboring of criminals and conspiracy to commit terrorism.
"'Yan sa criminal charges pero 'yung sa admin cases sure na 'yun matatanggal s'ya sa serbisyo," he said.
Dela Rosa also said that he received instructions from President Rodrigo Duterte to immediately put Nobleza behind bars.
"I just received instruction from the President. Ang sabi niya arrest and incarcerate right away si Superintendent Nobleza," he said.
Dela Rosa said he instructed Central Visayas Police Regional Office Director Noli Taliño to ask the court to commit Dungon and Nobleza to the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame as they are considered high-risk detainees.
"Talagang high-risk sila. Marami magkakainteres sa kanila so kailangan ipapadala natin dito sa Crame para the people will be at peace na walang possibleng manggugulo sa kanila. Dito na lang guluhin n’yo Camp Crame para masaya tayo dito," he said.
Police Regional Office-Davao Regional Director Manuel Gaerlan, for his part, condemned Nobleza for her involvement with the ASG.
"I am doing my own action against her although I have no admin authority over her for being assigned to a national support unit," he said.
“PRO 11 (Davao Region) respectfully refers all queries to the director, PNP Crime Laboratory in Camp Crame, her mother unit that has administrative control and supervision over her. Although her place of work as Crime Lab Officer is in Davao, PRO 11 does not have admin control over her person, only operational supervision on matters of investigation,” Gaerlan added.
On April 11, around 11 members of the bandit group onboard three speed boats penetrated Inabanga, Bohol, prompting the military and police to launch operations there, leading to a firefight.
Six rebels, three soldiers and a policeman were killed in the firefight, while the remaining bandits have escaped.
On Saturday, another firefight ensued between the group and the government troops, resulting in the killing of four Abu Sayyaf members.
In a recent press conference, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa to imprison Nobleza. (SunStar Philippines/with Anna Angelica B. Sotto-SunStar Davao)